Midsommar ★★★★

Although the films of 2019 are still refusing to break through the 4 star ceiling, Ari Aster's second feature comes pretty damn close, and is my favourite of the year so far. I went into Midsommar with a certain tension gripping my entire being, after being thoroughly strung out by Hereditary a few weeks ago. Although never coming close to the horror of that film, Midsommar is a wholly riveting experience that in my eyes just about supersedes it in terms of quality.

After starting the year with barely any knowledge of Florence Pugh's existence, she has quickly become one of my favourite actresses working today. Following up her incredibly charismatic and likable role in Fighting With My Family, the tables are turned as we see a Pugh that is anxiety-filled, panic-attack prone and entirely at unease. It never reaches the extremities of Toni Collette's horrifying display of grief in Heriditary, but is just as eye-catching. One gleans so much information just from the way she carries herself, the quickness of her eyes or the depth of her breathing. It's a truly wonderful mix of both highly emotive character work and intense commitment to a role on a physical level as she convulses, runs and dances across the screen.

Of course, there is so much more to Midsommar that makes it so impressive and a vast amount of that is down to cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski and production designer Henrik Svensson. Although like Heriditary, this film unfolds in a single location for the most part, Midsommar differentiates itself in that its spaces are wide and sprawling. In all that space, Svensson lends his incredible eye, not just to the layout and look of building's interiors but also to their overall shape, creating a landscape that feels like a disarming mix of modernism and something as nightmarish as the world of The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. Pogorzelski's camera captures all of this wonder and more with an incredible sharpness, with the use of reflections, depth of field and camera movement all adding to both the immediacy of the scenes and their relevance to the themes at hand.

Supposedly inspired by a break-up of the director, this film deals with some very heavy material. The opening few minutes are incredibly harrowing, but will easily go down as some of the best cinema of 2019. Although the film loses the intensity of those moments, I feel as that was intentional as the rest of the film focuses on the aftermath in Pugh's mind, where past events have lost their immediacy but none of their pain. I spent almost the entire film trying to tie the events with these ideas of moving on, both spiritually and socially, and while it wasn't always easy, it made for an immensely intriguing watch.

I definitely plan to see this film again. I can't lay a precise finger on what struck me so strongly, but it creates a rare atmosphere like very few films can hope to and I wouldn't be at all surprised if upon rewatch, this would be elevated for me into one of my favourite films of the past few years.

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